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Jack Weber

The Problem of National Freedom for Poland

(May 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 21, 24 May 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Who is it that struggles for Polish independence? First, there are the former rulers who have set up their government-in-exile under the protection of Churchill in London. Then there are the Social Democrats, particularly the leaders who fled for their lives from Hitler and Stalin. With the latter and outside their ranks we find also many Jews. All these exiles support the cause of English imperialism, which they call the democratic cause, hoping that its victory will bring the restoration of Poland after the war.

Are all these elements fighting for the same cause? Are the Polish generals, the reactionary landed aristocracy, the Social Democrats, the oppressed Jews, all in the same camp? Insofar as all of them support one of the imperialist contenders for world domination, they surely are in the same camp. But so far as their hopes and desires for the future are concerned, they are just as surely poles apart.

In the case of Poland particularly, it is impossible for the forces demanding national liberation to hide the absolutely unbridgable gulf between the social classes. Despite the German treatment of the Poles, despite their common exile and dispersion due to the combined conquest of Hitler and Stalin, these nationalists cannot forget the Poland of yesterday. No talk of national liberation and of unity in this struggle can hide the realities of the class struggle in “united” Poland. Not all this talk can hide the impossibility to achieve democracy under the ruling class, the capitalists and landowners, of poverty-stricken Poland.

The entire history of Poland between two wars is too vivid a memory. The workers and peasants, among them the Jewish workers, cannot forget, for the Polish Junker rule seared itself into their memories. The Polish reactionaries therefore do not even pretend that they have changed in any way, do not even pretend that they propose, if placed again in power, to act differently. Even in London they do not hide their utter contempt for the masses, and above all for the Jews.

As Anti-Semitic as the Nazis

The actions of the ruling caste in London have become a scandal for the English. Anti-Semitism in the Polish military forces serving with the English was so intense that ten Jewish military doctors resigned in protest. The Polish National Council, the “parliament”, in exile, proposed recently that after the war all Jews be driven out of Poland and sent to Madagascar. Jestem Polakem, organ of the Polish “National Democrats,” regularly carries on in London the same racial propaganda contained in the Nazi press. The protests of the British liberals and of the English press, particularly the London New Chronicle, have not diverted Churchill in the least from continuing his aid to the Polish generals. In actual fact the British bourgeois press is scandalized not so much by the well-known fact of the anti-Semitism of the Polish ruling class, but by its openness.

All of this places the Jews who support England in the war in an impossibly contradictory position. They cannot pick and choose as to what part of Churchill’s program they support and what part reject. Their one hope – vain hope! – is that Churchill and the other “democratic” imperialists will “reward” them for their support by obtaining concessions for them. Churchill will do this no more for the Polish Jews than he will for the British working class right at home. Churchill fights this war for British capitalism, and for British capitalism alone. The Poland that will get his support now and in the future is capitalist Poland, the ally of British imperialism.

The Social Democrats are in no better position. While speaking for a double goal in their struggle, national and social liberation, they place first the national goal. Their underground press in Poland states that “the main task of the Polish working masses is the re-establishment of the full independence and liberty of Poland,” adding: of course that it must base its existence on the principles of democracy and “social justice.” The past, they say, must never be repeated, nor will they exchange Hitler-slavery for Stalin-slavery.

But just how will support of capitalist England bring about democracy and freedom from slavery? Churchill proposes, if he proposes to do anything at all for Poland, to restore the old Poland, to restore the old Poland and no other.

Liberation Can Only Be Socialist

Nowhere is it clearer than in Poland that class society makes real liberation, both national and social, impossible under capitalist rule. Whoever allies himself with Churchill allies himself with the Polish Junkers and fights not for liberation but for a form of slavery only quantitatively and not qualitatively different from that of Hitler. The Polish capitalists use the idea of national independence and national liberation for the purpose of misleading workers into support of their capitalist rule. When they point to the need for “unity” in the struggle against a foreign oppressor, they mean to enlist the masses under theb banner of the rulingbclass. Those who link together the fight for democracy and the fight for a free nation with “democratic” imperialism serve the Polish Junkers and not the masses.

The workers and peasants of Poland will liberate themselves as Poles when they liberate themselves as workers and peasants from the grip of their exploiters. The danger of national enslavement exists for all Europe so long as capitalism exists. Only the overthrow of this system will remove that danger. Then, and only then, can the nations of Europe really achieve unity, the unity of the workers and peasants, the unity of the Socialist United States of Europe. What are the rivalries of the states of Europe today but the rivalries of the capitalist ruling classes, each one desiring to maintain and extend its power to exploit the masses. The masses desire peace and would gladly cooperate the moment the upper class disappears from history.

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